Bumps and Breaks: Learning Travel Lessons the Hard Way

A Tough Break

October 21 – 25
Rome, Italy

A Tough Break

We truly were looking forward to returning to Rome.  After several weeks in the sleepy hills and townships all over Tuscany, we were ready to return to a place that had become something of a home to us.  This would be our third pass through the city, and it was to make for a celebratory occasion: we would FINALLY receive our Permessos di Soggiorno, the official document that would permit us to remain in Schengan Europe for two uninterrupted years.  Friends were waiting for us back in the city and the apartment we were renting was one had stayed at in the past and enjoyed very much.  As we readied the kids for bed on the night prior to our arrival, Ryan and I reminded ourselves of the errands we had been saving for our return; replace old toothbrushes, recharge our Internet key at the Vodafone down the street, maybe try the gelato at Old Bridge near Castello S’Angelo.

On Tuesday, our first morning back in Rome, I hurriedly prepared a quick breakfast for the kids at the apartment in an effort to get out the door early.  When I strapped Kendley into her highchair, I failed to notice that it was not secured via a second strap to the chair that was supporting it.  The highchair had always been firmly tethered in the past and had never warranted a second look.  As both kids tucked into their yogurts and banana, I went back to the bedroom to change clothes.

No more than five minutes had passed when a sickening sound jolted me out of the morning torpor that still hung in a haze around me.  Kendley had fallen nearly four feet to the floor, face-first, while still strapped in.

The way in which a child cries when they are either badly hurt or terribly frightened (or both) is distinct; her piteous wails alternated with frantic high-pitched shrieking.  The right side of her forehead had clearly borne the brunt of the fall and was beginning to take on a rosy-purple hue before our eyes.

One week post-fall & barely a scratch!

A bit of a disclaimer is necessary here.  Despite being more than familiar with an assortment of childhood injuries and ailments courtesy of our hyperactive and accident-prone firstborn, certain scenarios still manage to truly, truly terrify me. One of them is the prospect of cerebral swelling caused by a severe head trauma.  Minutes after her fall, Kendley was beginning to show signs of shock; her color has drained to the point that her lips were nearly bone-white and she began to vomit several times in a row.  Ryan and I decided right then and there that it was time to get our daughter to the hospital.

But how to execute?  In our previous times in the apartment, we had cased the surrounding area for all the good gelaterie and cheap local eats, but we knew next to nothing about where a children’s hospital could be found.  I cursed myself several times for failing to check the high chair and for my limited knowledge when it came to Roman emergency services.  Several frantic texts to friends and an unproductive call for an ambulance (no answer) later, we were in a taxi being whisked off to the Bambin Gesu Children’s Hospital.

Neither Ryan nor I knew what to expect on our arrival at the ER.  Italy has notoriously suffered from the on-going fiscal crisis in Europe, and neither of us was quite sure if the country’s public heath services would be up to par.  Kendley had become listless and was starting to nod off in my arms, which is not advised if she in fact had any significant cerebral swelling or damage, and the crowd in the waiting room was thick with red-eyed youngsters and their sleep-deprived parents.

“Caduta.” I knew the Italian for “fall”, as it was a near-constantly used by passers-by whenever Oliver attempted to scale the Vatican walls on our way to our Metro stop.  The rest was a smattering of gibberish that miraculously managed to get our point across.  The intake nurse rapidly assessed Kendley, and within 45 minutes, she had a team of four doctors shining lights and probes into her eyes and ears.  It was determined that she was indeed suffering from shock, but nothing worse.  She was remanded into the hospital’s care and Ryan and I alternated between keeping watch at her bedside.  Good friends of ours in the city mercifully scooped up Oliver, and he was treated to a day of Wi-playing back at their apartment.  Eight hours later and with 275 fewer euros in our pocket (a bargain compared to an uninsured visit to a hospital in the USA), we were sent home with a boisterous and nearly-fully recovered toddler.

Gelato cures all

And then disaster struck again. On Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after being discharged from the hospital, we discovered that our car had been broken into and robbed overnight.  The thieves had shattered the small triangular pane adjacent to the passenger-side window, popped the lock and rifled through whatever they could find.

“They got the big blue duffle”.  The look on Ryan’s face was pained.

“But…that was full of diapers…”

“And the baby wipes.  They got those, too.  And I think all of your old maps from Iceland might have been in that bag. Ugggh, and the GPS. I sure hope you can read a map.”

“But…the diapers…why??”

“Never mind, those cost a fortune in this country!”

It was true; several of Kendley’s sundry items had disappeared in one fell swoop.  But, not dissimilar to the high chair incident, we really had no one but our own selves to blame.   Over the span of three months in Italy, we had become complacent when it came to moving all of our luggage from out of our car and into whatever apartment we were sleeping in that night.   We had accumulated more gear than we could manage comfortably, and the big duffle in the trunk had inadvertently become an overlooked receptacle for the occasional souvenir, the odd piece of electronic equipment, extra clothes and of course, a handy place to store extra diapers. Most importantly, it was a lesson learned the hard way, for a bag left in a car was an open invitation.

It had been a tough couple of days; that much was sure. Mounting insurance claims and police reports cast a long cloud over the next several weeks ahead of us.  But these events boiled down to nothing more that just part of the rub when it comes to location independence.  Attempts to settle into certain routines, to cut corners or let our guard down were frequently met with unfortunate ends, and this was something we knew already. Much of the joy we share in our traveling lifestyle is in the unknown and the unexpected, but inevitably, somewhere in the midst of all that lie some painful lessons.


  1. Im so glad Kendley is OK, Mari had a similar fall too when she was that age. Bittersweet to hear that you are staying another 2 years. Take care and be safe. All is well back here in the US, except for Hurricane Sandy, Amit and family are OK.
    Loren, Tanner and Mari

    1. Thank you Loren. We were very scared when it happened and are grateful that she is doing better. We are having a great time in Italy and will most likely be heading to Austria later in November (although that has yet to be decided). We miss you and think of you often.

    1. Thank you!! I was just reading about your family’s adventures in Germany the other day! Great stuff and so helpful, as we’ll be heading that way soon.

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